When Russell Brand controversially stated that there was no point in voting I had mixed feelings. I’ve always argued that we should vote because people fought (in various ways) for this right. I was also disappointed as I had heard Brand talk about political issues and he seemed to have a socially conscious attitude and ideas. I was also personally motivated because, as you may know, I have been involved in politics myself and the party I’ve aligned myself with (see photo below for a clue) have strong support among young people. If Russell Brand was dismissing voting then this would not help us when campaigning and ‘getting the vote out’. However, having spoken to many people on the streets and friends and family, all removed from political echo chambers I could see that Brand had a point, and people were disillusioned with all things political.
Sadly this feeling of disillusionment is not unusual and may even be growing. Last week I spoke to a friend and colleague who has previously been actively involved in politics. They had been watching the Holyrood 2016 leaders debate, but turned it off when the ‘debate’ descended into a shouting match. This is sad but not uncommon to anyone familiar with mainstream politics. Alongside this example I have become increasingly exasperated with the party I am a member of. I won’t go into details here, maybe that is for later, but it has slowly dawned on me (and this will be no great surprise to many of you) that there are a great number of people in politics simply for personal gain. I’ve always expected this to be the case with parties such as the Tories but I have been stunned by how people of all political persuasions are prepared to manipulate positions, systems and even other people to simply get a shot at power. Of course this isn’t just about gaining political power, there are issues of control, personal recognition and money (the ‘salary’ for being a Holyrood MSP is just over £59k – and I challenge you to name yours).
So should we just give up on politics? For now I am not quite there, and that is because in Dundee there is a by-election in the Maryfield ward and a local young person is standing for the Dundee & Angus Greens. Jacob Ellis (pictured above) put himself forward when the branch was struggling to find people prepared to step up and stand. The Scottish Greens haven’t done that well in local politics (especially in by-elections) and getting people elected takes time and a real commitment to the local community. Also being a candidate is hard work, and stressful, but Jacob has thrown himself into his campaign but crucially has been visible, out talking to people on the streets and engaging lots of other young people in discussion. Most importantly Jacob doesn’t seem to see this as a fast track to power, or money (it is a very safe SNP ward, and councillors don’t earn much). But he really wants to raise issues that matter. This is not lost on the people – the real people – he has been meeting on the streets of Dundee and Maryfield. One of Jacob’s big ideas is to get disused buildings and land (such as below) back into use for housing or sustainable business or industry and create employment and opportunity. Those of you who know Dundee will hopefully think this is a good policy idea and consider voting for Jacob. And I hope other young people will continue get involved in politics, not for personal gain, but to raise issues that matter. If not the career politicians and the media circus they inhabit will continue to spread disillusionment among real people.
Find out more about Jacob’s campaign here: https://www.facebook.com/Jacob-Ellis-for-Maryfield-1561578797491964/ (and why not give him a like)